Las Vegas Sun

May 29, 2024

Southwest Airlines doesn’t want stadium next to airport


A Southwest Airlines flight approaches McCarran International Airport with the Luxor in the background.

Updated Friday, July 1, 2016 | 5:42 p.m.

The airline with the largest share of passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport doesn't want an NFL stadium nearby, saying football fans' cars could clog the roads for passengers trying to catch flights and bright signage and pyrotechnics could hinder pilots' vision.

Southwest Airlines executives wrote a letter to Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak this week, saying they were "extremely concerned" about placing the proposed 65,000-seat stadium on land UNLV owns across from the airport. That 42-acre parcel was the focus of initial stadium discussions, although other sites are under consideration, including ones on the Las Vegas Strip.

"A stadium, whether open or domed, located less than half a mile from the ends of two of McCarran's major runways will restrict operations at McCarran International Airport, and will erode safety, security and capacity at the airport," said the letter, which was signed by Southwest vice presidents Bob Montgomery and Capt. Craig Drew.

The officials also said noise will be a conflict, and loud, low-flying planes could "render the stadium useless for anything but large sporting events, especially concerts."

Southwest has clout as the largest carrier serving the busy airport. It carried 1.6 million passengers to and from the airport in May alone, almost four times as many people as American Airlines, its nearest competitor.

Sisolak, who's a member of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee that's vetting the stadium proposal and its public-private financing plan, said the airline's opinion carries weight.

"For Southwest Airlines to come out and say they're in opposition to that site, and the chief pilot to say he's in opposition to that site, the five words — "please consider an alternative site" — ring pretty solid with me," Sisolak told KSNV-TV ( ), which first reported the letter. "I have real trouble considering that site or making that site viable."

Officials from the Las Vegas Sands casino company, which is pushing for the $1.4 billion stadium in hopes of luring the Raiders out of Oakland, said Southwest's letter didn't automatically take the plot out of the running.

"There are several sites on the table, including this one ... we're not locked into a particular site," Sands spokesman Ron Reese said. "We anticipate there's going to be dialogue on each of these sites."

Beyond the concerns about traffic, light and noise, the stadium is subject to review by the Federal Aviation Administration, which must approve any plans for buildings taller than 200 feet or within a certain proximity to airport runways. FAA concerns scuttled a prior plan for a stadium at UNLV in 2014.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency is still reviewing the current stadium plan and it was unclear when that would be finished.

The tourism infrastructure committee is supposed to submit recommendations about the stadium to Gov. Brian Sandoval by the end of July.

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